JUNE 29. Feast of Sts Peter and Paul. Mt. 16. 13-19
Updated: Sep 10
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’
This readings, and today’s feast, highlight one aspect of God’s Wisdom and Love we often overlook, and that is how his divine plan for the redemption of mankind involved a shared responsibility, for his Son, Jesus Christ, and for the people he created; - and he did this, even though we had sinned and rejected his love.
The Mercy and Love of God for his people revealed in this simple truth is enormous! Why would he ask the same sinners who offended him to work for the redemption of sinners; - but this is what he did; - giving us a sign of the extent of his Love and Mercy towards sinners!
Peter and Paul both sinned gravely, with their failings recorded in Scripture! In choosing them to found his Church it is as if God wants to stress this; - and encourage sinners not to despair; - but to return to him and avail themselves of the same love and mercy shown Peter and Paul.
Even today, the Church is made up of sinners, with the Pope, the Bishops and Priests all unable to escape this title; - but like Peter and Paul they are the ones God chose to proclaim his mercy and love; - and to invite sinners to repent and to seek his merciful love.
What a wonderful gift we have been given; - in that the Church is the means by which God bestows his Love and Mercy on his people; - calling them constantly to repent of their sins!
The only requirement for membership of the Church; - and for sinners to return to its fold; - is believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings, and to repent of their sins, as both Peter and Paul did.
What we find Christ seeking from Peter, in today’s reading, is a profession of Faith; - “Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God!’ That was all Christ sought from Peter; - and it is what he seeks from each one of us; - Faith that he is the Son of God and Faith in his teachings.
Faith is the pre-requisite to access the treasures of the Church; - as Christ made clear to Peter; “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man”; because you have this Faith; - but he then emphasises Faith is a divine gift; - something we easily forget!
As Peter was told ‘It is not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven!’ For those who have Faith, we need to give thanks; - but we also have a duty to intercede for those who have not received the gift; - a duty bestowed on the Church; - and its members; - by Christ himself!
A truth we easily forget is that our Faith is something we have to, not just believe, but also live!
Gospel Acclamation Mt16:18
You are Peter, the rock on which I will build my Church;
the gates of hell will not hold out against it.
First reading Acts 12:1-11 · 'Now I know the Lord really did save me from Herod'
King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.
On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’